From Hada Messia
MILAN, Italy (CNN) — Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been found guilty of having sex with an underage prostitute and of abuse of power.
The case centers on an exotic dancer nicknamed “Ruby the heart-stealer.”
A panel of judges sentenced him to seven years in prison. He is also barred him from holding public office.
Berlusconi can appeal.
Prosecutors had argued that Berlusconi had sex 13 times with underage dancer Karima el Mahroug and abused his position when he intervened in May 2010 to get her released from jail, where she was being held on charges of theft.
El Mahroug has said that she never had sex with Berlusconi and that she lied to him about her age, telling him she was 24.
The underage sex trial verdict is the latest in a string of legal troubles the former prime minister has faced.
Last month, an Italian appeals court in Milan upheld a four-year prison sentence for Berlusconi, who was convicted of tax evasion by a lower court last October.
In that sentence, he was barred from public office for five years.
Berlusconi, who served on and off as prime minister between 1994 and 2011, is arguably one of the most colorful and controversial figures in the lively history of Italian politics. For years, he has been entangled in fraud, corruption and sex scandals that have often reached Italian courts.